Feminists Reclaim Mentorship

An Anthology

Edited by Nancy K. Miller & Tahneer Oksman

Subjects: General Interest, Women's Studies, Higher Education, Sociology Of Work
Series: SUNY series in Feminist Criticism and Theory
Paperback : 9781438491844, 246 pages, February 2023
Hardcover : 9781438491851, 246 pages, February 2023

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Table of contents


Introduction: Mutual Engagements
Nancy K. Miller and Tahneer Oksman

Part I. Two-Way Streets: Finding Mentors / Becoming Mentors

Rosemarie’s Hands
Rachel Adams

Tears, Idle Tears: Mentoring English Graduate Students from 1973 to 2010
Susan Gubar

The Making of an Intellectual: Mentoring, Mothering, and a Black Feminist Journey
Michele Faith Wallace

When Am I Supposed to Stop Asking You for Advice?
Hillary Chute

Mentorship: By Any Means Necessary
Sharifa Hampton

The Accidental Mentor
Jennifer Crewe

Can a Therapist Be a Mentor?
Kamy Wicoff

The Reluctant Writer: Looking Back on My Mentors
Sarah Glazer

“That was where I felt most myself “: A Conversation with Sarah Burnes about Books, Mentors, Feminism, and Mothers
Tahneer Oksman

How I Came to America and Discovered Female Mentors
Mikhal Dekel

Rainmaker: How a Mentor Transformed My Destiny
Michelle Yasmine Valladares

Transformative Adaptations: Tracking Fay Gale as a Teacher
Elizabeth Wood

Dear Ant
Aoibheann Sweeney

Part II. Rearview Mirror: Mentoring at a Distance

Joy Ladin

Mentor Ghosts
Siri Hustvedt

Writing Letters to Ghosts: On Meena Alexander’s Posthumous Mentorship
Ashna Ali

Part III. The Traffic in Mentors: Horizontal Scripts

Widening the Way: An Interview with Dána-Ain Davis
Nancy K. Miller

Navigating Distance and Self-Doubt through Multiple Mentors
Angela Francis

All the Angry Young Women
Elizabeth Alsop

Mentoring and #MeToo
Leigh Gilmore

The Mentor as Mirror
Melissa Coss Aquino

Among Friends
Sarah Chihaya

A Chorus, Not a Monologue
Melissa Duclos

The Group (Text), or the Small Stuff
Sarah Blackwood

On Leaning Out
Laura Limonic

A Special Place in Hell: Women Helping Women and the Professionalization of Female Mentorship
Angela Veronica Wong

Feminists revisit their mixed experiences of mentoring and being mentored to reclaim mentorship as a project for new generations.


Mentorship continues to loom large in stories about women's work and personal lives— sometimes for the better, but often for the worse. If mentors can nurture and support, they can also bitterly disappoint, reproducing the hardships they once suffered and reinforcing the same old hierarchies and inequities. The stories gathered in Feminists Reclaim Mentorship challenge our fundamental assumptions about mentorship, illuminating the obstacles that make it difficult to connect meaningfully and ethically while reimagining the possibilities for reciprocity. Does mentorship require sameness? Might we find more inventive, collaborative ways to bond than the traditional top-down model of mentoring? Drawing on their experiences in academia, creative writing, publishing, and journalism, the volume's editors, Nancy K. Miller and Tahneer Oksman, and their twenty-six contributors collectively strive for relationships that acknowledge differences alongside the importance of common bonds. Feminists Reclaim Mentorship will resonate across workspaces and arrives at a moment when the need to form feminist connections within and between generations couldn't feel more urgent.

Nancy K. Miller is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her many books include My Brilliant Friends: Our Lives in Feminism; Breathless: An American Girl in Paris; What They Saved: Pieces of a Jewish Past; and But Enough About Me: Why We Read Other People's Lives. Tahneer Oksman is Associate Professor of Academic Writing at Marymount Manhattan College. She is the author of "How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?": Women and Jewish American Identity in Contemporary Graphic Memoirs and coeditor (with Seamus O'Malley) of The Comics of Julie Doucet and Gabrielle Bell: A Place Inside Yourself.


"I picked up Feminists Reclaim Mentorship expecting reminiscences about boys'-club academia, open-secret sexual harassers, older women hardened by their own ascents to power, commitments to reimagining old and broken systems, communities of peer mentors, and reiterations of the importance of reciprocity and listening. I was not expecting such a thoughtful, ambivalent, and sharp book; not expecting to be forced to put it down in order to think deeply about the mentors I've had, the almost-mentors I wish I'd had, my mother mentors and peer mentors; not expecting to end up less sure than ever about the right way forward or even the meaning of the word. In short, I underestimated this book. Feminists Reclaim Mentorship has teeth." — Maya von Ziegesar, WSQ: Women's Studies Quarterly

"The editors of Reclaiming Feminist Mentorship span a remarkable reach, crossing, intermixing—intergenerational, interracial, interdisciplinary, LGBTQ, inter-media-platform. Towering above this expanse of views, voices, positions, sweet and bitter sentiments, light and darkling, are the individual stories, like Scheherazade's, irresistible, each a teaching moment, their collective brilliance resetting for the twenty-first century the classic male hierarchy of binary patronage. You turn the pages, mesmerized by insights, gripes, confessions, undercover tales, the entirety composed by the marvelous writers who have trodden their own version of the mentoring cycle." — Shirley Geok-lin Lim, author of Among the White Moon Faces

"We need pioneers. Feminists Reclaim Mentorship is a revelatory, pioneering text. A rich diversity of voices tells us how women with power and authority can support other women in the future. These voices also warn us about the failures to have done so. Their essays are angry, sorrowful, poignant, loving, and hopeful. In a cruel, callous, and predatory world, women—and men—need to help each other out with common sense, care for our differences, imagination, and grace. I am grateful to Nancy K. Miller and Tahneer Oksman for being our mentors in marking out paths toward a better future.” — Catharine R. Stimpson, Professor and Dean Emerita, New York University

"An excellent collection—diverse in style, voice, perspective, and context. While many contributors come from academia and the literary world, their writing touches on a range of experiences (mothering, therapy, military service) and fields (disability studies, Aboriginal studies) and are full of evocative formulations (horizontal mentorship, collaborative mentorship) that will resonate more broadly. Feminists Reclaim Mentorship makes clear both the persistence of old professional hierarchies and the potential for new, more equitable relationships across generations." — Nan Bauer-Maglin, coeditor of Staging Women's Lives in Academia: Gendered Life Stages in Language and Literature Workplaces

"The generation of feminist scholars who created the field of Women's Studies were marked by the experience of having intellectually come of age 'when men were the only models we had,' as Carolyn Heilbrun put it in her book of that name. Many of these scholars later dedicated themselves to providing feminist mentorship for their own students, creating a mode of apprenticeship that has now served as a thread connecting several generations of women in and beyond the academy. In this richly engaging collection of essays, scholars and writers share their experiences of mentoring and being mentored—intellectually foundational, sometimes fractious, often deeply felt."—Ari M. Brostoff, culture editor at Jewish Currents and author of Missing Time: Essays